The Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum
Rooster and I visited the Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum shortly before co-vid-19 put a stop to our ability to travel. It was an interesting adventure filled with history. #The Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum #William Henry Harrison #Tecumseh #Tenskwatawa #Prophet’s Town#Indiana #history
I have visited the Tippecanoe Battlefield & Museum several times in the past. After our visit to the Benjamin Harrison Presidential House, Rooster and I decided to make a return trip to the historical location where
History of the Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum
The Prophet waged war against William Henry Harrison. Two Shawnee brothers became leaders in a movement to unite Algonquin speaking native Americans in the Great Lakes area before the War of 1812. Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa founded a village near the Tippecanoe River north of the present-day city of Lafayette. This settlement became known as Prophetstown by local settlers. Events leading up to the famous battle spiraled out of control, resulting in a cataclysmic firestorm for the native population.
Three major actors were on the historic stage to play a roll in the last stand of the Shawnee people in the state of Indiana.
Who was William Henry Harrison?
William Henry Harrison, the military officer, and territorial governor with political aspirations. Tecumseh, the military leader of the Shawnee people, who confronted William Henry Harrison at Grouseland, which provoked him to bring a thousand troops against Prophetstown. Tecumseh’s younger brother, Tenskwatawa, the spiritual leader who motivated his followers to mount a foolish attack in the middle of the night against a much larger military force. These men wrote the script, which created the two-year-long drama known as Tecumseh’s War.
There were many factors, which led to the battle on the Tippecanoe River. The Native American way of life drastically changed from the first contact with Europeans. Disease drastically reduced their population. The ones who survived the illnesses brought to the New World were pushed west by white expansion, creating tribal conflict over territory on the frontier. The Europeans lust for beaver pelts created shortages of food and resources.
The role the Prophet played in The Tippecanoe Battle
The trade for goods manufactured changed the traditional lifestyle of the native people. Alcoholism became an issue among many of the individuals. When Tenskwatawa was a young man, he had the reputation of being a drunk. He was blind in his right eye because he shot it out with an arrow. After he had a series of visions, he began preaching a message that the people needed to return to traditional tribal ways or suffer hardship. The Prophet started gathering a following.
Who is Tecumseh
Tecumseh was the older brother of Tenskwatawa. He was a military leader and orator who attempted to unite the Native American nations into a confederacy to deal with the settlers as a unit. Under his plan, lands couldn’t be sold to the United States unless all the tribes agreed. His confrontation with William Henry Harrison at Grouseland in Vincennes, Indiana, over the Treaty of Fort Wayne, led to hostility between the Shawnee and the United States military. Before Tecumseh went south to recruit other Native American peoples into the Confederacy, he instructed Tenskwatawa not to engage with Harrison’s troops for any reason.
The Confederacy wasn’t strong enough to win a battle against the superior forces. The younger brother should have listened. When Harrison came against him with about one thousand troops, the Prophet thought the best way to avoid a battle was to send men to kill the territorial governor in his sleep.
What role did Prophet’s Rock play in The Tippecanoe Battle?
He also convinced his disciples that bullets wouldn’t harm them in a passionate speech given from on top of what became known as Prophet’s Rock. Legend has it Tenskwatawa stood on a ledge above Prophetstown and sang songs and chanted spells to motivate his people into action.
It sounds romantic, but the outcome led to defeat and the burning of the community on the banks of the Tippecanoe River. William Henry Harrison earned the nickname “Old Tippecanoe” and went on to become the 9th president of the United States. Tecumseh died in the Battle of the Thames during the War of 1812, fighting on the side of the British. A tarnished reputation followed Tenskwatawa into Canada after his defeat at Prophetstown. He found himself exiled across the Canadian border of the United States after Tecumseh’s death.
Our experience at The Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum
It was a cold day when Rooster and I wandered through the tiny museum located on the grounds of where the battle once raged between Harrison and the native peoples of Prophetstown. Tucked between the walls of the brick building, a dramatic piece of frontier history unfolded for us. The Tippecanoe Battlefield & Museum is a perfect example of the old saying, “victory is written by the victors.” The story told by the displays and dioramas is slanted on the side of Harrison being the enforcer of law and order playing the role of rounding up belligerent natives.
I could feel the story of the Native American’s fight for survival buried deep beneath the narrative. We strolled into a room where a movie played on a large screen television near the middle of the exhibition. The battle reenactment of the events that occurred during the night of November 7, 1811, flashed before our eyes.
The scenario in the movie painted a picture of a hostile Indian attack. It could be argued Harrison was the aggressor in the situation. He brought a body of troops against a Native American village with the intent of driving them into the west. The people camped at Prophetstown were fighting for their existence as an indigenous people.
The Monument at The Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum
A large white monument on the grounds serves as a reminder of the troops who died during the Battle of Tippecanoe. There is no mention of the Native Americans who gave their lives during this historic battle listed anywhere on the enormous statue.
We did find some fascinating relics and memorabilia in the glass cases scattered around the museum. We came across a room where rifles lined the walls. The relics included in this exhibit of firearms dated back before the Revolution into their use on the frontier.
There was also a display in a glass case of the positions of the forces when hostilities started. It represented a fantastic picture of the movements of confrontation. A life-sized replica of a Shawnee camp showed how the native people lived in the 1800s. Rooster waited in the car while I walked around the monument and took pictures. The cold weather prohibited us from spending time exploring the grounds. Still, Rooster and I want to come back at a future date.
Other activities at The Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum
I hear they have a lot of fun activities in the spring and summer in the area outside the museum. We may travel back for one of the events if the co-vid-19 virus spread is under control by then. It was hard for me to write this blog. It took me weeks after we made our visit to Tippecanoe Battleground & Museum to wrap my mind around the history associated with the place.
The Native American people faced their struggle against diseases, which they had no immunity in their bodies to overcome. It weakened their capability to survive as a people. The idea of uniting and standing together against a deadly opponent came too late. It’s my hope we, as a nation, come together and set our differences aside. Yet we are still divided over politics and ideologies. Right now, it seems like we are on the right path to victory.
We need to work together as a nation to defeat the coronavirus. Everyone must do their part. This virus is forcing us to think about how our actions affect other people. We must be kind, we must be courageous, we must win this war against an opponent we can’t see.
Who is Molly Shea?
Molly Shea is an accomplished fictional short story writer from Indiana, who writes short stories and novels about a fictional town called Tecumseh. To read more of her short stories and adventures click here.
Be sure to follow Molly on Twitter!
2 thoughts on “The Tippecanoe Battlefield and Museum”
It’s an interesting period and interesting event which almost nobody in the UK knows about, but having lived in South Bend for 12 years I am somewhat familiar with the Tippecanoe River and the battle.
Wanted to visit the museum as we used to drive past it fairly often, but the closest I came was a canoe trip down the river near Rochester on day in the 90’s.
Lovely detailed article as always.
Thank you for your feedback. The battle site is on some beautiful Indiana country side. I’m glad you enjoyed the piece.